I firmly believe that all women should feel empowered during labour. They should be their own advocates, feel comfortable with whatever method they take or don't take during the labour process, and most importantly, shouldn't be pressured into doing anything they aren't comfortable with.
There's no right way to bring a baby into this world. This is especially important when discussing VBACs, or vaginal birth after caesareans. When a woman endures a C-section, it's her right to decide whether she wants to attempt a VBAC with her second child or not. If she elects to have another caesarean-section, more power to her. But I want women to know that, despite the odds, a VBAC is possible. I'm proof.
After being bullied into a C-section with my firstborn, I was traumatised. My doctor said he knew my body "wouldn't progress" and that I'd "never be able to have a vaginal birth." How could he know my body better than me? How could he tell me what I was capable of? I was determined to prove his arrogance wrong, so when I got pregnant with my second child, I immediately knew I wanted to try and have a VBAC.
I did my research, read up on different birthing methods, watched documentaries, and soaked up every bit of information in between. But because I have a heart condition and OBs in my area won't allow their patients to even attempt a VBAC, I switched to a practice about an hour away that had midwives.
During my second pregnancy, I ate well, stayed active, and maintained a positive attitude. I believed in myself. I believed in the power of the female body. I would push the doubt away whenever it tried to creep into my brain. My mentality was strong. When my due date came and went, I still wasn't rattled. I knew my body would eventually go into labour.
Like my midwife said, "No woman has ever been pregnant forever." Three days later, I lost my mucus plug in the middle of the night. I've never been so excited to see blood and other fun things in the toilet. I laboured at home for 18 slow hours. Finally, after getting out of a warm bath, my contractions started to pick up in speed and intensity. My husband drove me to the hospital.
When we got there, I wasn't dilated . . . at all. Literally ZERO. Instead of admitting me, they sent me to a nearby hotel to labour more. The contractions became so intense that I made my husband drive me back to the hospital after a few short hours. This time, I was only dilated to two centimetres, but they admitted me.
After 38 hours of pain, dry-heaving, and swearing obscenities at anyone who was willing to listen, I asked for the epidural. After that sweet heaven entered my spine, I slept for six hours straight. It was the most glorious decision I ever made, and honestly, should have made it earlier. When I woke up, I was dilated eight centimetres. My body was finally beginning to cooperate. After a few more hours of labour and a tiny bit of Pitocin to tip my body off, I was fully dilated. It was time.
After the first half hour of pushing, I was still hopeful. My husband and midwife encouraged me and acted as my cheerleaders. But after two hours of pushing, my epidural began to wear off and my high hopes began to sink. They brought in the head OB of the department. I looked at the clock. From that first contraction, I had been labouring for 49 hours. I remember thinking, "How am I ever going to recover from this — physically and mentally?" The OB checked me, looked me in the eyes and said, "This baby is going to be delivered vaginally." I felt a surge of adrenaline.
I pushed for one more hour. I dry-heaved. I got the shakes. I gripped onto that bedrail because the epidural was running out of juice, just like me. But finally, after 50 hours of labour, my adoring daughter arrived five days late. Only, she was right on time.
The moment she laid on my naked chest was the most empowering, beautiful moment in my entire life. My daughter and I did the impossible together. We responded to all of the people who doubted that I could have a VBAC by having one. I didn't need a male OB telling me what my body could or could not do. My daughter and I knew we could do it, and we did.
Mums, remember that it's your birth and your body. You should be empowered to make the best decisions for yourself, whatever that may look like. Maybe you don't want to attempt a VBAC, or maybe, if you're like me, you want to make it happen with every fibre in your body. Either way is OK. At the end of the day, as long as your wishes are met and you and the baby are healthy, that's all that matters.
Just know that you're powerful and can do anything if you have the will to do it.